Monday, April 03, 2006

A Reminder in Case You Don't Know Why He Totally Deserves It.

The two entries April's Fool and The Model Prank are re-runs, but if you missed them when they were posted on Observations of a Misfit here they are. I'll put up the new entry about the events this year soon, but thought a review might help--just in case you wonder why I take such pains to fool my little brother on April Fool's day.

April's Fool

Throughout my life, I had one goal. No, not winning an Olympic medal, achieving fame and fortune or writing the great American novel. My goal was much more lofty, much less attainable, and I persevered. Finally, after years of failure and frustration, this year I was successful! I refer, of course, to the grand aspiration of duping my brother on April Fool’s Day.

April Fool’s Day is a tradition my brother Ryan observes with the devotion and reverence generally reserved for religious holidays or Star Trek conventions. In our family, he’s the undisputed Prince of Pranks. Though Ryan has managed to trick every family member at least once, no one has ever been able to fool him. This presented an irresistible challenge to me.

Several weeks ago, Ryan, a generous and helpful, albeit occasionally sadistic soul, graciously gave me a computer he no longer needed. He mentioned that his young children had used it, and the hard drive would require reformatting. I accepted it gratefully, since Mike doesn't like me using his computer (I break stuff.) and the computer I had been using resembled the Flintstone’s bowling scorekeeper, only slower. Since I experienced several glitches before everything was running properly, I was in frequent contact with Ryan asking for advice, so setting up my prank was much easier.

It couldn’t be anything elaborate, because that would make him suspicious. Simplicity, timing and false complacency were vital to my success. I set him up by sending an e-mail late the night before April first. In my message, I mentioned that while looking at the information stored on the hard drive, I had discovered some rather alarming files, and wondered if he could call me the following morning in order to help me remove them. Since I’m about as technically inclined as an Amish hausfrau, I knew he’d find nothing odd about my request.

The next morning, as predicted, Ryan contacted me via instant messenger. The following is an excerpt of our conversation, beginning with his question:

R: So what’s up with the computer?
S: Oh, right. Well, Michael was working on it yesterday and he said that he found some pretty bad stuff on the hard drive.

R: Really. Hmm. Well I think that hard drive is actually the one I swapped out of Muriel's computer when I was trying to get hers to work.

(I had to laugh. Muriel is our step-grandmother. She is a dear, sweet, spiritual woman. Undeterred, I pressed on.)

S: Then it would seem that Muriel has some explaining to do.

R: She once complained of some emails she got, and I’ve been over there a few times when her grand kids have messed up her computer.

S: That could explain it. I was a little concerned, wondering why you were surfing satanic cults, buying drugs online and looking up some other strange things. At any rate, can it be cleaned up somehow? I don’t want to risk having my son stumble across this stuff.

R: Probably. You want to cook dinner for us tonight?

(It’s at times like these I suspect that R just might be a masochist. But dare I pass up an opportunity to cause him to wonder if I’d poisoned him?)

S: Sure! We’d love to have you.

R: You cook, and I’ll be there.

S: Great. Some of this stuff is really disturbing. Someone’s been looking up instructions for meth labs, pipe bombs, where to buy Sudafed in bulk. I really wouldn’t have thought M was into that kind of thing. Not that I thought you were, of course.

R: You’re not serious. Meth labs? Are you kidding me?

S: Why would I make this up?

R: Because I’ve always suspected that you’re slightly deranged.

S: Fair enough. Let’s see, there are instructions here on the proper method of kitten sacrifice...hmm, goat sacrifice too. I'm not even going to start on the "questionable” viewing matter.

R: Hey, that’s some pretty whacked stuff. I wonder if I need to be concerned. Do you know how big that hard drive is?

S: Me? I don’t even know what a hard drive does.

R: Sorry, I lost my head for a second. Can you ask Mike?

S: He’s not here. I think it’s 4 gigs, though.

R: Are you sure?

(I thought I’d better play dumb before he got suspicious.)

S: I think so. Mike said our old one was two jigs and this one is twice as big.

R: “Jigs?”

S: Jigs, gigs, whatever. You know what I mean.

R: Well, now you’ve got me wracking my brain trying to sort out the history of that machine. When I built M’s computer, I bought several used parts and interchanged them until I got it working, then I took all the leftover parts to build the machine I gave you, that’s why knowing the size of the hard drive would help.

S: You’re quite the Dr. Frankenstein aren’t you? You know, you’re just lucky your little girls never saw this stuff.

R: That’s why I’m concerned.

S: On the bright side, you may not have to explain where the new baby came from after all. You may want to tell the neighbors to keep an eye on their cats, though.

R: Wonderful. Hey, I just got off the phone with my wife and I asked her who else could have used that computer. The only one she could think of was her cousin Greg so she’s calling him right now.

S: Very interesting.

R: I’ll come down tonight and figure it out.

By now, I was beginning to worry just a little. While fooling Ryan is delicious, well-deserved retribution, I adore his wife and wouldn’t want to upset her. I realized it was time to come clean.

S: By the way, isn’t your birthday coming up?

R: Yes, in a couple of weeks.

S: Two weeks from tomorrow, isn’t it?

R: Yeah, it is, come to think of it.

S: So that would mean today is...(I waited a few beats.)

R: You suck.

S: You know Mom doesn’t like that word. I’d hate to have to tell her.

R: Yes, I’ll bet you would. You still owe me dinner.

S: Fine. And to show you my heart’s in the right place, I won’t even cook.

Later that day, Ryan called me.

“Guess what? The apartment we’re planning to rent until our house is built isn’t available for a few weeks. We were going to stay with Greg, but he was so offended by the false accusations Kimberly made when she called to ask about the computer, that he no longer wishes to accommodate us. So, either you figure out a way to appease Greg, or we’re coming to stay with you!”

He's bluffing. Neither of our masochistic streaks could survive that.

The "Model" Prank

Call me smug, but I’m still relishing my unprecedented success in tricking my brother Ryan on April Fool’s Day. I know it’s still bothering him. I"ve had to point out that if it isn’t April, it’s just lying. Historically, he’s never seemed to have a problem with that. Among his lame attempts at retribution thus far, I’ve been forced to listen to "strange men" make lewd propositions over the phone. (Ryan practiced on Mike who fell for it completely, poor guy. He was pretty rattled. If he had grown up with Ryan he would know that Ryan plays that joke on everyone at least once. Any one familiar with his work knows that Ryan's instrument of choice for pranks is the telephone.

Ryan's past misdeeds include charming the receptionist at school into calling Mom and telling her that Ryan had been suspended pending the lab results of the white powder found in his locker. One year, he coaxed a friend’s mother to call, posing as an ER nurse telling Mom she really needed to get to the hospital right away to sign release forms for Ryan's emergency surgery. Personally, I thought that the hospital was a wise location for Ryan to choose to reveal that it was a joke. When Mom’s that angry, being near an ICU is probably a good thing for all concerned.

My personal favorite was the April Fool’s Day that fell less than two weeks before Ryan was scheduled to return from Chile where he had been serving an LDS mission. He had been gone for two years, and since missionaries are only permitted two telephone calls home a year, we’d only spoken to him three times. He elected to use his last call to fool Mom.

He found another English-speaking missionary, walked miles to the nearest phone, and had the missionary call our mother. Mom was informed that due to suspected illegal anti-government activity, Ryan’s passport had been confiscated and he wouldn’t be returning home as soon as expected. Mom did her best to remain calm and did a pretty good job until she heard, “They have him in custody, but don’t worry. For a South American prison, it’s not that bad.”

Mom was a tad alarmed. “Prison? Prison! What on earth has happened? I’d better come down there and get this worked out.” Just then, as is often the case, the connection was lost. Mom went into a complete frenzy, trying to decide whether to call the airlines first or Church Headquarters. And wait, what if they were trying to call back? She needed to keep the line open, right? Should she go to the neighbor's and use their phone?

As I watched her fret, something dawned on me.

“Mom, it’s April first. Is there the smallest chance that this is just a joke?”

“He wouldn’t do that!”

“Wouldn’t he? Remember when he had the IRS call to tell you that you were being audited?”

She thought a moment and then reminded me, "He’s a missionary. Missionaries don’t do that sort of thing."

I rolled my eyes. I had just returned from a mission of my own. In the mission field, practical jokes are a time-honored and cherished tradition. If this was in fact a joke, it was comparatively mild. By then, however, Mom was beyond hearing me. As she was babbling something about the need to bring back carrier pigeons for emergency use, the phone rang again.

I picked it up, since Mom was having trouble speaking coherently at that point.


“Hola! Hey, Stacey? It’s Ryan!”

“Well, hello, Ryan. How good of you to call.” I looked at Mom who stood trembling nearby. “So, how are things in prison? I do hope they treating you well.” It took nearly a full minute for Mom to process that I had Ryan on the line. From my sarcastic tone, she also realized something was up. She narrowed her eyes in suspicion as the conversation continued. I could almost feel the glee dripping through the phone connection.

“So did Mom fall for it? Did she?”

“Did she fall for it? You might say that.”

“Good one huh? Except we lost the phone connection before we could tell her it was a joke, but that probably just made it even more convincing.”

I looked at my mother who was now fully aware that she’d been duped. “Oh, it was convincing all right. You may want to hide out in South America until it blows over, however.”

At that point, Mom took the phone from me and after listening to her side of the conversation I didn’t think my advice to Ryan about becoming a fugitive was overstating the seriousness of her wrath.

This year, I pulled a simple prank on Ryan. It wasn’t a technically brilliant or elaborate joke, but the fact that I tricked him at all was deeply upsetting for Ryan, which was all the more rewarding for me.

Ryan blames his lapse in attention to the stress caused by moving. He and his wife are building a house in Salt Lake City. The house where they’ve lived for several years has sold, so they plan to rent an apartment until the new house is finished. The only problem is, the apartment is not available for another month, so they made arrangements to stay with a relative in the interim.

The night after I led him to believe he had given me a hard drive corrupted with alarming downloads, Ryan came to our house for dinner. When he arrived, he
looked glum and stressed. He repeated the statement he had made earlier in the day:

“Guess what? Because of the accusations and questions Kimberly made about the computer, Greg is insulted and no longer wishes to accommodate us. So guess where we staying instead?”

Ever the thoughtful sister, I drafted a letter to the contractor building Ryan’s home in an attempt to resolve his housing situation in the upcoming months:

Dear Sir,

I'm writing this letter to tell you how much I enjoyed touring your model homes. They are probably the nicest model homes I’ve ever visited, and that’s saying something. You also have the best doorbells. Having model homes available for prospective buyers is a brilliant marketing strategy. One of my hobbies is to visit different model homes in order to experience their environments. This helps me decide which home would be the best one for me.

It’s apparent that Fieldstone is dedicated to building homes that are best suited for their buyers. However, I have noticed one thing that would make your model homes even more attractive. While you have the sofa, the beds, the tables and chairs, it still doesn't feel like a "home". Why? Because everyone is a guest! Think about it: do you have people who just wander through your own personal residence, never cooking or cleaning or lifting a finger? Except for teenagers, no one actually walks around your house to see if they want to live there. It feels very impersonal.

To solve this dilemma, I have an exciting proposition for you. I would like to move into one of your model homes for the next 3-10 months. I will live there doing normal activities like eating, sleeping and playing bongos. (I will not give concerts). I will have friends in to visit, view classic films (The Simpson’s seasons 1-5) and listen to music. (There will be no dancing.) I can also watch TV and play video games if you can provide those accessories. (I prefer Nintendo, but can adapt to Playstation if necessary.) This will be a great benefit for you since people will be able to tour my model home and see just what it would be like to live there. "Look!" people will say, "If we bought a Fieldstone home we, too, would be blissfully content playing video games and eating Doritos while lounging around in our pajamas! Let's buy now!"

In your current marketing strategy, no one who visits a model home ever gets to see people actually living there. I'm willing to provide this service at no cost to you, though I do require a security deposit. (Sometimes people who wander through model homes take things as souvenirs. I mean, so I hear.)

For your information, I've been living in model homes for many years now, so I can assure you that I'm very qualified, and other than a small fire incident, I have a great record! (Note: you may want to consider mentioning to buyers that the fireplaces are not well suited for grilling shish kebab.)

For a slightly increased fee, I'm available for extra services such as vacuuming with a smile (show potential buyers what a joy it is to clean a fine Fieldstone Home!), hedge clipping (topiaries in the shape of Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters is extra), and conspicuously reading Marcel Proust. (Potential buyers will exclaim, “Surely these homes are designed for the intelligent and elite– we must buy one!)

For a limited time, I'm available to move in with a wife and three (possibly four) children. This way people can see that having a screaming child in one room, with a raucous game of water balloon badminton in the living room is quite manageable. At least more manageable than it was when we lived at the bus station. We would like to be your model family, living with our model children, teaching them to be model students and model citizens while living in your model home. I feel this will be very advantageous in targeting your desired family demographic.

Best of all, other than the aforementioned optional expenses, my services are completely free! Act now, and I guarantee your sales, not to mention your reputation, will transcend your current projections.

Sincerely yours,


No comments: